Yogi Berra said it best. “Its deja vu all over again.” Fortunately, for our Detroit Tigers, the odds of beating a “favored” New York Yankees team in the postseason are remarkably high for a team that didn’t even win 90 games. The Tigers spent only a few hours back here in the Mitten State before flying out to the Big Apple for Game 1 tomorrow at 8:07. Let’s breakdown this series on sectional basis, shall we?
Game 1: Doug Fister vs Andy Pettitte
Doug Fister has been pitching like a man possessed lately. He has stepped up BIG for the Tigers with Max Scherzer’s health now a factor. He has almost been as reliable as Verlander this last month. Now while I can’t take away the fact that Andy Pettitte has been the best pitcher in the postseason from the last 20 years, I will throw that fact out the window here. I mean, lets be real here, the man came out of retirement this season and was out for all of July and most of August. He was adequate in Game 2 against Baltimore at Camden Yards. But when matched up with Doug Fister, is “adequate” really going to get the job done?
Game 2: Anibal Sanchez vs David Phelps/Hiroki Kuroda?
Many of Dombrowski’s trades don’t look like slam dunks on first examination. Initially, Anibal Sanchez looked like a nice throw-in with secondbaseman Omar Infante but down the stretch, Sanchez has looked like the centerpiece as of late. Let’s not forget, folks. Sanchez did a damn good job of keeping the Tigers in Game 3 against Oakland by only giving up 2 runs the whole game. As for the Yankee starter, I’m not even sure who will take the ball for manager Joe Girardi. Hiroki Kuroda, the Game 3 starter against Baltimore, would be pitching on short rest. Therefore, New York will probably turn to little known pitcher David Phelps. Now if you’re on the Yankees, no one knows who you are, and you’re starting a pivotal game in the postseason, the odds are not in your favor.
Game 3: Justin Verlander vs Hiroki Kuroda/Phil Hughes?
It goes without saying that the Tigers have the clear advantage here with Verlander on the hill but him pitching in front of a home crowd, only assures a victory here. Kuroda could start here but the Yankees might want to go with Phil Hughes. Hughes has surprisingly good numbers against the Tigers in Comerica Park and Girardi might go with a slim chance as opposed to no chance at all. Either way, I’m not buying the Yankee hurler in Game 3.
Game 4: Max Scherzer vs CC Sabathia
This is probably the only chink in the Tigers rotational armor. If the June version of Scherzer is starting Game 4, I’d say the teams would be equal. But Scherzer is still visibly injured and his pitch speed has gone down dramatically. Sabathia only needs to be better than Scherzer and will probably outlast him but if the Tigers pick a day to explode for an offensive display, Game 4 would be it.
ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK
It gets even more complicated here as the Yankees rotation is in shambles. Leyland has made it known that Fister would go in Game 5, Sanchez in Game 6, and Verlander in Game 7 but as to who will oppose them is anyone’s guess. But because New York isn’t adding anyone to their playoff roster anytime soon, we’ll be seeing many of the same starters from earlier in the series.
Bullpen: Valverde, Benoit, Albuquerque vs Soriano, Robertson, Chamberlain
We all know the horrors that transpired in Game 4 against Oakland. Despite this, Valverde doesn’t make up the entire bullpen. Benoit got through a tough 8th inning but still got the hold as did Albuquerque before him in the 7th. I’m not sold on this bullpen by any means but I’d like to believe that these guys have gotten this out of their systems. As for New York, this is one of the strongest aspects of their ballclub. Soriano has been a godsend after the ACL tear of Mariano Rivera. Robertson could be a closer on any team and Chamberlain breathes fire coming out of the Yankee bullpen. While I don’t fear this bullpen as much as I did Oakland’s, it would do well for the Detroit lineup to give themselves a lead before the 6th inning.
ADVANTAGE: NEW YORK
Detroit’s lineup has been the thorn in the side of fans everywhere. They’ve wildly disappointed, even with Triple Crown Miggy and the Prince (sounds like a sitcom) in the middle of the lineup. But before you jump ship, let me remind you that Miguel Cabrera has some of the most dominant numbers against the Bronx Bombers. Additionally, the short porch in right field should spell well for Fielder as any Comerica Park off-the-wall double would be a homer in New York. Jhonny Peralta has to continue to swing the bat well and I think Leyland needs to test the arm of Yankee catcher, Russell Martin, on a regular basis to generate offense. As for the Yankees, I made it a personal mission of mine to study each hitter and I’ve deduce the following: these guys are old! The reason the Orioles lost the series was because they didn’t have what every successful postseason team has: power pitching. The Yankee lineup, 1 thru 9, are guys who were .300 hitters anywhere from 5-10 years ago. With the pitching staff the Tigers have, it shouldn’t be hard to strike them out. But they are the Yankees and anything’s possible (including the benching of A-Rod).
I’m not extremely concerned with defense in this series because as much has been made about the Tigers’ suspect defense, I haven’t seen the gaffes like “experts” claimed we’d see. The Tigers played fundamental baseball in their Game 5 win over Oakland and I think we’ll see that same focus carry over onto the diamond in the Bronx, once the lights shine bright and the fans start to cheer. New York is very much like the Tigers, although slightly older. Jeter is not the 27 year old “Captain of the Infield” like he was before. Cano is easily the best infielder and Granderson is easily the best outfielder but between them two, I’m not buying the Yanks as a “supremely defensive” team to the Tigers. Stalemate.
Manager: Jim Leyland vs Joe Girardi
As much as people continue to hate on Jim Leyland for the most unjustifiable reasons, I have the firm belief that he is the best manager for this team. I wouldn’t trust anyone else in this situation (before I get ahead of myself, realize this isn’t even another chapter of the Tigers’ story. This is a whole other book. And I’ll cover that in another article later). Leyland has guided the ship with a steady hand and as we prepare to do battle with the U.S.S. Yankee, there is a new look in the other captain’s eye nowadays. In my opinion, Joe Girardi has truly evolved as a manager and made the tough decisions to qualify him as a formidable opponent to Jim Leyland. There’s just something about being in New York that changes a man (sometimes for the worse, isn’t that right, Curtis?). But considering that Joe is still relatively new to all this compared to Jimmy L, who’s only gone to the postseason, oh, I don’t know, 1/3 of all the seasons he’s managed, the Tigers have the advantage.
The Tigers have, in a way, lucked their way into getting to this point. They beat out Chicago. Los Angeles and Tampa Bay were on the outside looking in. Texas choked early. Oakland went down swinging. But, honestly, that really doesn’t make a difference. That’s just the cards that we were dealt. Many predicted the Tigers to make it this far but not the way they went about it. New York, on the other hand, always expects this. But, sticking to Tigers recent history, we also know that when we play New York, we beat them. And why, Detroit, would 2012 be any different?
PREDICITION: TIGERS IN 5